Al Feldstein, who died on April 29, took over MAD Magazine and transformed it into the secular Talmud that many Jewish teens pored over while eating their cornflakes.
MAD first appeared in October 1952 under the editorial direction of Harvey Kurtzman, but it was really Feldstein, as Kurtzman’s successor, who turned it into such a biting satirical force.
Feldstein, born in Brooklyn in 1925, lived through the Depression and witnessed his parents losing their home. His resulting social conscience was injected into MAD as he hired like-minded Jewish writers and artists. “My writers,” Feldstein recalled, “were all Jewish boys from Jewish families in urban centres.”
This “usual gang of idiots”, as the magazine referred to them, included Mort Drucker, Al Jaffee, Will Elder, Dave Berg, Larry Siegel, Stan Hart, Arnie Kogen, Frank Jacobs, and Lou Silverstone. Added to this were such Jewish guest contributors as Sid Caesar, Danny Kaye, Paul Krassner, and Jules Feiffer. No one was safe from their satire. They parodied a predominantly Protestant culture from the perspective of the Jewish outsider while also poking fun at fellow Jews.